JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
This year, Air Combat Command is hosting its third annual Spark Tank competition at the Creech Conference Center on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Oct. 16, 2019.
Airmen pitch innovative ideas to Air Force senior leaders and a panel of industry experts during this annual competition.
Spark Tank was created by AFWERX, a program designed to support a culture of innovation in the Air Force community. The goal of Spark Tank is to encourage Airmen to think of innovative approaches to everyday tasks in their work centers.
ACC Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Christopher P. Weggeman explained that this year’s competition focuses on three core areas: restore readiness (to win any fight, any time), cost-effectively modernize (increase the lethality of the force) and drive innovation (secure the future).
Six contestants, consisting of Airmen from the 9th Air Force, 12th Air Force, 24th Air Force and 25th Air Force, will present their ideas. The two winning ideas will be announced on Oct. 18, 2019, and will move onto the finals in Washington D.C. to compete at the Air Force level against major command finalists.
Their ideas included the following:
Latch Seal Track Case, 9th Maintenance Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, California
Over the last few months, Airmen of the electrical and environmental career field at Beale have had to repeat maintenance because of unforeseen events. These events caused seals on the latch assembly in the aircraft canopy to fail operational checks. Airman 1st Class Brett Geisler, 9th AMXS E&E technician, came up with an idea to remedy this issue.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can use computer-aided drafting on my home PC, and I have access to my 3D printer, so I’ll give it a shot,’” Geisler said. “That night I spent a couple hours taking as many measurements from the latch seal track as possible, and proceeded to create a specially designed box to seal the track.”
Money saved with Geisler’s idea would surpass initial startup costs and cut man-hours by 26 percent.
Air Traffic Control Flyaway Kits, 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
Several members of the 53rd ATCS have combined their experiences to come up with an idea for an air traffic control flyaway kit. The intent is to create a “war-ready” kit designed to prove the concept of providing existing air traffic control towers with the equipment needed to deploy worldwide.
“The MSN-7 requires two dedicated C-130s or one C-17 to transport the asset into theater and carries an average transportation cost of $703,964,” said Senior Master Sgt. Harley Brydon, Spark Tank 2019 participant from the 53rd ATCS team. “Adopting technology already in existence solves this problem.”
In austere deployed locations, before ATC towers are built, air traffic controllers use the MSN-7, which is a mobile air traffic control tower that sits in the bed of a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or Humvee. The proposed flyaway kits would consist of equipment that can be shipped as baggage instead of cargo.
The Airmen from the 53rd ATCS believe their idea will save money in sustainment and airlift costs.
Portable Magnetic Aircraft Covers, 1st Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
When aircraft maintenance Airmen travel to deployments or temporary duty locations, they aren’t able to take their aircraft covers with them due to sheer size and bulkiness.
“My idea allows the F-22 Raptor to become more mobile,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Caban, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 crew chief. “On a fighter aircraft, space is at a premium. There aren’t any cargo bays or anything like that. With my covers it enables you to fit them in that small space.”
Caban says his plan will save the Air Force at least 50 percent per F-22 in individual equipment cost, as well as significant transportation costs, all while simultaneously increasing F-22 readiness.
Intelligence Simulator Workstation, 89th Attack Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
Airmen from the 89th AS submitted a Spark tank idea proposing an integrated intelligence training workstation. The workstation will create a synergistic effect where aircrew and intelligence analysts can train together.
“What we need is a full intelligence suite with access to more current intelligence programs as well as the development of plugins that will connect our simulator software to our intelligence programs,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph, 89th AS Intelligence Training NCOIC. “The ultimate goal is a training construct equivalent to real-world operations where we can effectively train both aircrew and intelligence together at the same time.”
As a result, the 89th AS’ Spark Tank idea for the integrated workstation will help the Air Force by replicating how Airmen operate in a real-world environment – maximizing realism while eliminating unrealistic training.
Task Force Bat Phone, 16th Weather Squadron, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
During the initial set up of an exercise, there is always a lag between the start of the setup and the establishment of the secure data, according to Tech. Sgt. Matthew Mattern, 16th WS weather analyst.
“Our goal is to develop capabilities to fill that gap,” Mattern said. “The program that my team created will allow the Airmen in the field to gather data during the critical times before more robust communications are set up.”
Additionally, the properties of military radio allow the task force bat phone to be used in a contested environment.
“It’s important to note that these radios won’t just transmit weather data, they’ll transmit any data,” Mattern said. “That means that this program is a stepping stone towards being able to use these radios throughout every career field.”
Wholistic Care Management, 67th Cyberspace Wing, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
In 2017, suicide was the leading cause of death among active-duty Airmen. Capt. Tyler M. Moore, 67th CW acquisitions officer, came up with an idea that would sharpen the Air Force’s tactic to resiliency while respecting Airmen’s privacy.
“I am asking for seed funding to address the number one threat our Airmen face,” Moore said. “The Air Force realizes that it cannot win tomorrow’s war if its Airmen are not resilient. Our current approach to suicide prevention is not working. If you want different results, you have to take a different approach to solving this problem.”
Moore said this method would be a fundamental shift away from passive resilience programs and allow the Air Force to take a proactive approach in ensuring the readiness of the force.
(Editor’s Note: Some last names have been removed due to operational security concerns.)